Opinion Number. 172

Subject

ELECTIONS WHETHER SCRUTINEER MAY LAWFULLY DIVULGE WHO HAS VOTED : WHETHER DURING POLLING PRESIDING OFFICER MAY FORBID FURNISHING INFORMATION

Key Legislation

COMMONWEALTH ELECTORAL ACT 1902, ss. 174,183,184

Date
Client
The Secretary, Department of Home Affairs

The Secretary, Department of Home Affairs:

The Secretary, Department of Home Affairs, asks whether a scrutineer who has signed the declaration required by regulation 19, and by the amendment thereto gazetted on 5 December 1903, may supply a candidate, by his own hand or by the agency of another, with lists or marked rolls of those who have voted, or whether the Act and declaration forbid his divulging the information obtained by him in the capacity of scrutineer.

In my opinion a scrutineer is not an 'officer' within the meaning of section 174 (ii) of the Act.

I am also of opinion that the information mentioned is not information 'officially acquired . . . touching the vote of any elector'. An elector presents himself, to vote, in a public manner, and the fact that he has done so is a matter of public knowledge. The prohibition in the Act, and the words of the declaration, relate to violation of the secrecy of the ballot, not to communication of the public fact that an elector has voted.

I therefore think that the Act and Regulations do not directly forbid the giving of this information.

At the same time, I am of opinion that the presiding officer has power to direct, if he thinks fit, that during the polling there shall be no communication between the scrutineers and the outside public-which direction can be enforced under sections 183 and 184.

[Vol. 4, p. 160]